Another TSG member needing no introduction is Sian Martin who is very well known to textile enthusiasts world wide through her Distant Stitch textile courses with students as far away as Australia and New Zealand as well as closer to home. Sian is also one of the TSG tutors running workshops at Stroud while the exhibition is running, so what, I asked her, was she working on for DIS/rupt?
I have been moved by the desperate plight of refugees as they flee their homes due to war and hunger. I have long been interested in movement and journeys whether of birds, people, tides, clouds and the visual repetitive rhythms that these can suggest. A few years ago, I delighted in recording my own journeys by placing a pen on a sketchbook page and letting the pen record the vibrations of the journey, whether by bus or train.
I was also intrigued by the photographs by Eduard Muybridge and the paintings by Duchamp of figures in movement.
My piece for DIS/rupt aims to tell the story of a different journey – the long flight of one young refugee I met last year. I was so moved by his individual story. Like thousands of others, Ahmed experienced the horrors of displacement from his home when he was 15 years old. His father was a nomadic farmer in Afghanistan and the family lived in peace until Isis came and stole his two sisters. They returned to take him away and shot and killed his father when he tried to stop them. His mother told him to run as she kissed him on the cheek.
He escaped and made his way alone through Europe, meeting up with others on the same long journey to safety. Ahmed arrived in the UK after several years in the ‘Jungle’ at Calais. He is currently cared for by the Medical Foundation as part of ‘Freedom from Torture’ (Amnesty International). Ahmed was recently given a few days retreat in Somerset and I was pleased to meet him briefly. He shared his story to his host, my friend, and told her ‘I can still feel her kiss on my cheek’. Ahmed has no way of discovering what has happened to his mother.
What are the materials and processes that you are working with?
Fragments of fabric, some symbolic of the clothing worn by this young teenager such as denim, some with imagery, some with text, have been threaded into long narrow converging bands on fine stainless steel thread using a pleater.
Are you able to give us an idea of the scale of your piece?
My textile is a long, narrow textile that I hope suggests Ahmed’s long journey and will be over 4 metres.
Is the finished piece to be free standing or wall mounted?
It will be wall-hung so you can ‘read’ the story – a long strip, reading from left to right.
What message do you hope the viewers of your work will take away from the exhibition?
I would like viewers to be moved by the plight of this individual boy to raise awareness of this huge tragedy that is happening to multitudes of others. I hope I have been able to use a visual language to tell this story, starting on the left as the story develops along the length to the right. I’ve used the language of colour as it changes – draining from the strong bright colours of a happy life to bleached and subdued; the language of texture as it changes to fabrics that become worn and frayed; the language of spacing as it changes from closely grouped to spaced, separated and scattered. Occasional elements of imagery to suggest figures and stitched text introduces portions of Ahmed’s words – ‘I can still feel her kiss on my cheek’.
You are one of the TSG tutors running workshops during the DIS/rupt exhibition, briefly, what can your students expect from the class
My workshop is called ‘Zen Stitch’. I hope this will intrigue students as it did me when I first experienced this approach. How often have you been confused by all the choices you have available – what method do you use, what colour do you choose, what shapes do you make and where do you start? See what happens when you don’t need to make those decisions and can just enjoy ‘doing’. See how it feels to be spontaneous in the middle of your busy day and experience a brief time of calm and creativity. I’m not giving any more away, but you won’t find out unless you try it.
The workshop sounds really intriguing Sian and will be of enormous interest to those who will be joining you. And what an amazing story about your piece but how wonderful to be able to put into fabric and stitch the story of this young man. I wonder if he will be able to see how his story inspired you.
If you would like to see Sian’s work and all the other pieces for DIS/rupt and if you are interested in Sian’s or any of the TSG workshops on while the exhibition is open then look on our website at TSG
Booking for the TSG workshops and further details about the Symposium DIS/rupting Tradition:New Textile Languages: New Textile Languages featuring contributions from Alice Kettle, June Hill, Melanie Miller and Michelle Stephens can be found at SIT select 2017